Lots of games have been released recently, with the inkJam, where participants had 3 days to make a game following the theme In Blink of an Eye, the EctoComps, and the Bare-Bones, so I’m going to play a handful of them as a treat.
I’ll try to keep the reviews as short as possible, so I can play as many as I can
I participated in all three this year, too…
Also, the reviews are/will be available on both Tumblr/IFDB, the marker Q below noting which one has been queued last.
First, the inkJam entries, since the voting ends on Sunday Nov 4th.
30 29 entries total, so 28 for me to check out.
Review blocks: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6*, 7, 8, 9, Final Thoughts.
*reviews are published/queued on Tumblr/IFDB until this point
Second, the French EctoComp, which has 4 entries total, so 3 for me to check out!~
Next, the main EctoComp event, with 37 entries, so 34 reviews to do
2 entries from me, 1 being InGirum
La Petite Mort:
The Grand Guignol:
Also listing the Bare-Bones entries who were also listed in the EctoComp:
You are a IF machine. Remember to schedule in a nice nap sometime soon love, November’s got meowre events incoming and you’re still a sick little meowmeow after boosters. Kitty healing meowgic orders!
Impact by Reid Gillis
with: Dani Masiglat, Mari Suzuki, Will Tracy
Summary: As life flashes before his eyes during a car accident, Stan relives the ups and downs of his life in search of meaning in the ordinary.
Thoughts: Interesting use of the theme, through a collection of snippets, as Stan is about to die. The writing is quite nice, and flows nicely from one snippet to the other. I’m not super fan of the UI though (white text is difficult to read, interactivity brings a bit of friction, not much coherence between background styles). The final beat was gut-wrenching.
Summary: Buy a seed planet. Watch its life unfold. Blink and you’ll miss it.
Thoughts: Cool sci-fi concept with a eerie vibe, reducing life to a couple of numbers and snapshots. Also has an interesting use of randomisation to generate the planets and its components (also had the same planet twice in row). The UI is fairly simple, but gives a futuristic/corpo vibe to the story. Pretty creepy when you think about the implication of creating a planet just for the enjoyment of one person.
Summary: You are part of the Biohazard Response Team. A select group of professional mercenaries gathered with the distinct purpose to clean up and remove all evidence of radioactive mutant disturbances. This is your first mission!
Thoughts: very much Aliens/Predator vibes, with the beasts’ descriptions. Trying to stay alive, balance your weapons, and maybe save others is trickier than it seemed (sorry, Razor), but it made for a fun “adventure” game. The actions to keep yourself safe are not always the sneakiest ones…
Summary: A small narrative game about adopting some pets.
Thoughts: Quirky prototype that ends a bit too abruptly for some paths. Very much chaotic energy humour. The illustrations are funky. I would play a longer version of this one. In the meantime, I’m bringing the pets back, not a good owner.
Note: This is a platformer made with Unity
Summary: Reach the end of the level before the eye’s done blinking.
Thoughts: Not much to it on the narration side (there’s no story, would be nice if there had been some over arching thread…), but the UI is cute. The levels are pretty hard as well.
Note: This a RPG adventure made in binksi
Summary: In the early 19th century, a group of engineers at a prestigious university conduct an experiment with a machine called the translocator.
Thoughts: Cute “old timey” RPG, where you need to interact with elements around you to advance the story (really, you must make sure you interact with all tiles in the first room). The retro UI and pastel palette give off a very stuffy university vibe (and the never-silent professors add onto it).
Summary: explore the story of Sergeant, a member of the IORATA; a research/survey vessel and a last-ditch effort to overcome an equally inevitable and unexplainable extinction event.
Thoughts: Interesting sci-fi premise, with a good writing flow. The fast pace start hooks pretty quickly, and you get that sense of dread from the ship reports. The tech doesn’t feel far-fetched, even if the setting itself might. Game also has a lore feelies.
Summary: a text-based interactive narrative about a salesperson working at a body modification shop. Learn what you can about your client before making your decision.
Thoughts: Intriguing take on the themes of agency, control over one’s body, and technological advancement. The use of an interview to probe into the customer’s motivations for a procedure is done quite well. It is both uneasy to go through and hard to look away. There are also subtle variations between different tones from the start. Pretty good!
Blink. by Fergus Doyle
Summary: Blink. Or don’t. It doesn’t change much.
Thoughts: tiny horror story about what’s there but also not quite. The game plays around with your agency - while it should add to the uneasiness of the setting, it didn’t do much for me. This kinda felt like those post of r/twosentenceshorror.
Sere by Kira Pelletier and Lauren Nolan
Summary: Watch a forest rise and fall.
Thoughts: This is a very cute entry, and quite serene to boot, watching the forest going through different seasons and stages. Depending on the choices made, you can manage to loop back around to try out a different branch. The illustrations on that one were quite lovely, whether it was the chapter headers or the background (shame it didn’t fit properly on the page )
Summary: A historical take on the theme, told as a Corinthian folktale.
Thoughts: Mash of Christian mythos and horror, using old English in dialogues to add a more ancient vibe to the story (while the rest of the prose has a more modern form - makes it a bit jarring, imo). The ambiguous and unchanging ending left me unsatisfied.
I’m not sure whether thoughts are necessary here. Might want to play it first.
Summary: Tsumugi is a researcher that was recently sent to a space station in the earth’s orbit. Until, she has a really uncanny situation.
Thoughts: a mix of sci-fi and fantastical element that fit pretty well, even with the sometimes awkward prose. There seems to be achievements and stats aspect in the game (text notification), though it is unclear how much this affect the story, aside from the direct variation. There are quite a bit of early endings as well. Quite a bit of text for something done in a day.
Summary: A short reflection.
Thoughts: Feels like an interactive letter, where the player tries to understand what is wrong with them and how they got there. There is not much else to this.
Lid Astray by Avery Hiebert and Ryan Samman
Summary: Enter an experimental simulation known as “the Labyrinth,” where reality changes whenever you blink your real-life human eyes. Do you have what it takes to escape?
Thoughts: Very creative use of gameplay with the player “blinking” to affect the environment. The game is filled with fun puzzles and different scenarios (I did not reach the end, the background animation made me sick). The mechanic really wowed me!
Summary: Larp & Monty’s Metamorphies is a little text-base adventure about two door guards who find themselves in a bit of a pickle.
Thoughts: Completely absurd, definitely kafka-esque. A treat.
Skinner by SmallMiracles
Summary: Assess the humanity of an individual.
Thoughts: Interesting mechanic by reading an instrument testing whether an individual is a human or not, brings terrifying questions about how we quantify humanity. Does have a bit of a BladeRunner/iRobot vibe.
ruin by treatyofparis
Summary: a game about reading and writing poetry. it is a game about cities, oceans, maps, bookstores, malls, gardens. it is a game about being lost.
Thoughts: Very poetic, heavy on the vibes. Dream-like state and exploration of imagined places. It will affect some more than others (I’m in the other this time).
That's 18 done. 11 left, for tomorrow.
I’m very impressed that you managed to finish 18 games in a day. I heard somewhere that I have been lawnmowing down the IFComp entries. You are basically like me on steroids. All the best!
well it’s easy when the games are so tiny. Participants had 3 days to make their games, so they tend to be max 30min to play. I’ve seen a few who took even less of the allocated time to make their entries.
I’m also forcing myself to keep the reviews short (that helps too).
Three more posts and I will be done with the InkJam!
Summary: Your ordinary life as a body snatching monster is rudely interrupted when a pair of strangers try to ruthlessly murder you.
Thoughts: kind of a time-cave type of branching, seems to be quite a few endings. Also felt incomplete (too many paths, not enough time). Vivid descriptions, which sometimes felt bit distraction. Good potential though.
Note: this is a 2D-top-down Horror/Survivor + you need an actual mouse
Summary: You wake up in your house in the middle of a thunderstorm. Your brother is getting a little hungry. Maybe time to make him a snack?
Thoughts: Immersive with the interface and sound effect. But stopped playing after 5min, the zombie noise was too much. Couldn’t stomach it. Zombie stuff is just
Note: this is a sidescroller with choices
Summary: It’s your final exam at Witch Academy! Will you be able to graduate?
Thoughts: Really adorable and quirky, whether it is the story or the UI. It’s also really short. Unsure whether the choices actually matter (when you actually have some), but who cares when it’s this cute!
Summary: Search for ingredients and conjure treats!
Thoughts: If you have a sweet-tooth like me, it’s honestly a treat. Def one of the best entries I’ve played in that jam. From the UI to the Story and the Gameplay, it’s a delightful 15min.
Summary: The story follows a jazz player as he tries to make sense of a night out gone very, very wrong.
Thoughts: Though it’s an incomplete story (you are warned on the gamepage), there is something intriguing in the premise. Good tension and moodyness.
Summary: You play an acolyte of a dark cult on their last trial to become a member of the cult.
Thoughts: Feels like a dungeon crawler/puzzle. There’s a specific order to interact with the elements, and it’s very easy to die (I did a lot!). The UI and vibes of the game is pristine though!
**Summary:**You are Vega Greene, and you’ve just been reassigned to work at a remote science outpost. When you arrive, you discover that you have an unexpected, but not unwelcome, roommate.
Thoughts: The games describes itself as
A lo-fi game to relax to. and definitely has those vibes from the soundtrack. It’s a very cozy game, with some storylets for tasks. +1 for the cat and being able to play with it.
SpeedRead by TremblingInferno
Summary: Focus on the words, or you might fail.
Thoughts: Very short game that will test your reflexes and reading ability (does have speed setting). The game is more interesting for its gameplay than the actual story (pretty minimal).
The Gooooooood Dog Show by owof games, Mattia “RedGlow” Belletti, Insalatuera, QueerginiaWolf
Note: the game is currently only in Italian.
Summary: Test your reflexes for an end-of-the-world cooking challenge!
Thoughts: I could only manage to understand some bit that sounded like French, so I was super lost during the actual story bit. Also got my ass kicked during the cooking portion. The visuals are super cool tho, with its surrealist vibe.
EDIT: it is now available in English!
The Restless by Double Zero Games, Konstantin Semionov, edtempler, Yue Liu, David Fitzgerald, Quantum Soup Studios, Anna Krauze, willbrycemusic
Note: the game file was not available, removed due to a bug. Seems unlikely it will come back before the end of the jam.
/jk I’m not going to review my own game, that’d be cheating
inkJam 2023 - final thoughts
Anyway, that’s it for the inkJam. Pretty interesting to see the different take on the theme, as some used it literally, others took a more abstract approach, or even used it as gameplay or mechanic.
Many listed their entries as prototype, which makes sense with the small time frame to make a game. But there were a good bunch with an insane amount of polish for just 3-days.
Also, the jam has been running yearly since 2018, gathering around 20 to 60 entries. So lots of small games there. And none of the jams have been recorded on the IFDB before now (I’ve only added the Interactive Fiction one this year). Now I’m kind of interested in playing the other editions…
So yeah, done with the inkJam!
Don’t forget to vote!
EctoComp 2023 - French Edition
(there are only 3 for me to play )
Meurtre dans la station spatiale par maximejr
4h Version - Long Version
It’s been submitted twice, I will play both version, but only do one review~
Summary: An investigation inside the international space station following the death of the cosmonaut Axionov.
LPM Version Thoughts: Intriguing sci-fi alternative-history premise, very French humour, not very spooky, but some bugs with choices and interactivity, and some issue with the interface and text formatting. Made the whole not super satisfying. The journal entries were the highlight of the game, imo.
LGG Version Thoughts: There’s a bit more content in this version (especially in the journals, and at the end with an extra puzzle), giving a bit more context and intrigue, and the interactive bugs and some interface issues were fixed. But this didn’t add much to the satisfaction or the spooky aspect. More interactivity with the other suspects (like interrogations) would have helped, I think.
InGirum by Beny Danette
French - English
Note: this is a binksi game, submitted in both the English and French edition of the EctoComp. The voice narration is in French for both, but the caption is translated in English.
Summary: InGirum is an unfinished game. It’s a game in ruins, just like its creator.
Forenote: I played the French version first, which I recommend as the one to play if you can.
Thoughts: This is a bit of a game within a game, with commentary (real voice), with an interface of a computer, where you play the loaded game. You play snippets of games/demos in binksi (move around and interact with things), while the narrator explains the state of mind of the author and his motivations for creating the game. The interactivity sometimes is a bit obtuse (with the inclusion of a hidden maze, just walk around), but it does mirror the narrator’s commentary. Suspense is building throughout the game, culminating in a shocking twist. The interface is really good too, the glitching of the screen making things so uncomfortable.
This is an incredible and well rounded game, wow.
In the Blink of…
Honestly, my French version is not as good as the English one. I took the 4h to translate the whole text (so much text…) and it does need some editing for sure.
French EctoComp - final thoughts
Fewer entries this year than last (but not shocking, as we are a smaller group than the Anglophone sphere, and the French Comp is like right around the corner), but pretty interesting take on horror and interactivity.
Hopefully, next year, there will be more entries~
Also from this point on, multiple entries have been submitted to both the EctoComp and the Bare-bones. I’ll indicate it, if that is the case, and will only review them once.
Note: this was also submitted to the Bare-Bones Jam
Summary: Halloween night comes to a close and you’re just settling in to get a good night’s sleep when your son Lucas lets you know there are monsters in his room. Again. A father’s work is never done.
Thoughts: Heartbreaking but so well-written. There’s something not quite right from the beginning, things that don’t fit, building tension little by little, which makes the reveal not only depressing and the implications terrifying, but hitting even harder than you’d think. I need a hug now…
I had read the CW before playing but didn’t make the link until the end…
Summary: I think about dynamics a lot.
Thoughts: More of a meta/philosophical musing about creative writing and an author’s relationship with its creations, the positives and negatives, the black the white. While there piece is very linear, I found the high-contrast backgrounds fitting quite well with the text on the screen. It didn’t feel super spooky, but then I’m also past that whole dread thing…
Note: this was also submitted to the Bare-Bones Jam
Summary: You’ve always been drawn to the lonely old house on the hill outside your town. It’s been abandoned for as long as you’ve lived here; you’ve never seen it get any care or attention. To everyone else, it’s just a part of the scenery. But to you it’s always been something more–a mystery, an omen, a promise.
Thoughts: My kind of parser! with just one command (x) ! The gameplay reminded me a bit of Nested as in you look at things, that gives out a detail you can look at, that gives you a detail you can look at… (except it doesn’t repeat ad infinitum). It felt a bit voyeuristic trying to look at details of this house, even if it’s abandoned. Pretty eerie, but neat!
+1 for including a walkthough! -1 for not being able to pet the dog (/jk)